Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why I Want Feminism to Change

This is a reposting from a comment that I made on a previous thread (Edwards Endorses Obama). The comment was sparked by my mentioning why I felt sort of sad that HRC did not preform better in this race than she did.

At RBR's suggestion, and because I was so interested to read LTG's take on things, I decided to post it on the front page.

This provides me with an opportunity to talk a little bit about my experience of feminism that spans 3 generations.

The baby boom women had a very confrontational approach to feminism. You had to challenge men on their turf by using their rules. This is HRC's generation. And this is her feminism.

These women told their daughters, my generation, that we could be it all. In fact, we were obliged to have it all. They had destroyed all barriers to entry. Now we could have the career and the children and if men didn't like it, too bad. Thus the "battle of sexes" that you see in a whole culture of books like "Mars vs. Venus". So we faced a great deal of pressure. If you went to college, everyone said that this was wonderful. Then their next question was, "Is she seeing anybody." My mother still gets asked this about me. And the relief my mother felt when she met my boyfriend and liked him was evident. In the meantime, my grandmother, who was happily married for 57 years until my grandfather's death, looks at my life with a touch of jealousy. She says, "Man, if I could have had the choices and the life you do, I wouldn't have bothered getting married. I would have loved to work outside the home. I wanted to. Your grandfather wouldn't let me." At the same time, Boomer women are pressing us for grandchildren.

Then comes my niece, the Echo group. She has none of the desire to confront men or be competitive with them. She is doing her own thing. She doesn’t measure her success against the boys or other girls for that matter. I live next door to a housing unit for graduate students from Stanford U. I see how these younger people interact with each other and I admire how they harmonize. They and my niece seem oblivious to racial or gender differences. They are kind to each other. And I see how nearly tribal they are with their colleagues. They are the Barney generation, the “I love you, you love me.” The tee-ball and soccer group where no one looses and boys and girls play together. Everyone wins all the time.

My generation is the Sesame Street generation. We were taught that we all live in a community and that everyone should play nicely together and be aware of and tolerate of racial and gender differences. I know I was unhappy when I entered the work force and I saw how Boomers would cut off their noses to spite their faces. Rather than creating win-win situations, they would always set up win-lose situations.

My generation of women, as we move into our mid 30s and 40s have already figured out that you don't get to have it all. You can be a great mom with a moderate career or a amazing success in the office, but not so good at home. But you can't be a high flyer on both counts. It will just make you crazy and unhappy. And our men have also adjusted to this reality for themselves. And we are all tired of the Venus vs. Mars thing.

That is where I find hope. As RBR pointed out, HRC lost in part because people are tired of Clintons. But I think she lost in part because my generation and the Echos didn't come out in hordes for her. We don't want combative male vs. female feminist politics anymore. Even if we deeply identify with her struggle, we just found a lack of integrity at a certain point. I found myself put off by HRC throwing back whiskey to "prove" she was one of the boys, and her weird personality shifts from Obama-loving to Obama-attacking. At the same time, I admired her drive, her experience, her energy, and her mastery of policy details. So my support for her has always been conflicted. And I still feel a need to speak up for her when people critique her. "Hey, lay off. She has done a hell of a job, she hasn’t had it easy, and you have to admire that!"

But RBR is right! This election really wasn't about race or gender. It was about politics and who could best lead us out of this mess we are in. But it has given me a chance to really think about where I fit in this society today, and what my values are as a woman, as a person, and as a voter.


History Buff said...

I was curious whether you think that the end of Mars vs Venus could also extend to the end of Repbulican vs Democrat. I was listening to a program on the Diane Rehm show Yesterday and she was discussing a new book by John Harwood and Gerald Seib called "Pennsylvania Avenue". They were talking about how the dynamics in the two parties have changed over the years and why they are so polarized now.

It used to be that there were conservative democrats and liberal republicans and the parties were able to meet in the middle. Do you see younger people bringing these parties back to consensus??

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, USWest. I would also like feminism to change. When speaking with women of my grandmother's generation, I sometimes feel as if I'm describing the workings of a space station when I talk about my life. Someone married me even though I can't cook and I don't want to learn?

As for my mother's generation, I've had a similar experience, though the "are you seeing someone?" stuff was abated for a few years by going to a women's college.

In the early part of the Democratic race, I felt a lot of pressure to support HRC just because she was a woman. That seemed so outdated to me. If feminism was supposed to be about seeing past gender and finding the best person for the job, why was I exhorted to support a candidate simply because of her gender? Even as someone who is quite fond of HRC, it rang hollow.

I know little of these Echo people, but they intrigue me. As a high school student, I often felt pushed into intense competition against boys (mostly over grades). I took the bait, but I wonder what kind of teenager (and person) I would be if I'd just been doing my own thing.

-Seventh Sister

USWest said...

Thank you for your kinds words, 7th Sister. It is funny that you mention that you can't cook. I can cook and I do it pretty well. But I am told that if I could see myself at work, there would be no sign that I am an able homemaker at all. That came as a complete surprise to my friends from work who met me. I, apparently, keep the two worlds even more separate than even I was aware of. But then I realize that more people are expecting men to cook. More men like to cook and they are turning it into a sport, as they will. Think "Master chefs" and TV shows like that. I once heard a Frenchmen say on NPR that more women were becoming master chefs, that they were breaking the ceiling in that job. When asked if women are better at it, his reply was perfect. "Men have much better technical skills in the kitchen. Women are much more intuitive chefs. But the results are equally good." I find the same thing in my photography classes. And I found this in graduate school as well. And I see it on the blog as well. The guys have this amazing mastery over the stats and it isn't that I couldn't do the same, but I am not as interested in it. I observe and then have a gut reaction, then I think about it, and then I come to the conclusion. I think this is great for the blog, but it is an example of a different approach. And I like the idea that you get great results with different methods. And you need both methods for the yin and the yang.

History Buff, I am not sure you will see the end of "partisanship" because I also know that no generation is free from the one the preceded it. THe Gen Xers are aging, and to a certain degree we have had to adapt to the culture of the generation before us in part because they are still in charge, and because they are so huge.

Now we are rather small in terms of numbers when compared to the Echos. So they may affect us a bit more than we affect them. The other thing is that there are too many unforeseeable events that could push partisanship forward.

What I suspect is that you will see an abatement of partisanship, a moderation of it for a period of time. But things cycle. And we may find ourselves back to partisanship again. It is an interesting thought, though.

Raised By Republicans said...

"But then I realize that more people are expecting men to cook. More men like to cook and they are turning it into a sport, as they will."

LTG, I believe this is your cue...

History Buff said...

I taught both my daughter and my son how to cook. I think it's an important life skill, especially now with all the warnings about obesity. I have never thought of it as a gender specific skill.